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Christmas Beef Tagine


Christmas festivities are upon us! While there is a lot of traditional baking to be done, I have decided to go down a slightly different path for a dinner tonight that celebrates Christmas from around the world.

As a big fan of tagines, I decided to create a special Christmas Tagine.  Bright with the colours of Christmas, red and green, and deliciously fragrant with Middle Eastern flavours that remind us of the original Christmas story, this beef tagine is full of beautiful veggies too.

Of course, the beef tagine can be eaten at any time of the year! But it can be an alternative to the usual suspects eaten on the day, and would make a great Boxing Day or even New Year’s dish!

I have recently been researching the Keto Diet – not, I hasten to add, on my own behalf – but to better understand what a particular disciple of this low carb program can eat. So I had a go at creating something that might be at least keto friendly,  if not actually following all its tenets. I have certainly got to grips with the idea “above ground vegetables good, below ground vegetables bad”!

Here it is. You could substitute some non keto approved below ground veggies like potatoes or carrots, if you like, but they would need to be added in at the start of the recipe, as they take longer to cook. As prunes aren’t probably that great for the Keto Diet, but do add that traditional sweetness to the tagine, you could halve the amount to get the flavour without too much of the sugar. Or leave them out altogether!

Ingredients

2 teaspoons paprika – sweet

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper corns – cracked in a mortar and pestle

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

500g diced shin beef/chuck steak

4 eshallots  and 4 spring onions, finely chopped

(Or replace both with 2 large onions)

1-2 garlic cloves, to taste, finely chopped

1  x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

175g prunes

1.5 tins water (use the tomato tin as a measure)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 small eggplant (aubergine), sliced

2 zucchini (courgettes), sliced

100g green olives

Chopped coriander, to decorate

Method

Combine the spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add beef and stir until well coated in the spices. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and spring onions or ordinary onions and cook them for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned. Remove all to a plate.

Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan. Tip in the beef and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned and caramelised.

Return the shallots/onion/garlic to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Stir in a third of the prunes. Lay several slices of the eggplant (about a third of the eggplant) on the top of the mixture.  Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Cook for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and lay the rest of the eggplant slices and the zucchini slices into the casserole, as well as the rest of the prunes and most of the olives, reserving a few for serving. Cook, covered for a further hour or until the beef is really tender.

If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the beef pieces, you can cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining olives over the tagine, and some coriander leaves.

The tagine should be looking pretty festive with its tomato red and coriander green, but you could add some sliced cherry tomatoes for a little more red or even, if so inclined, a few slices of red chilli!

Chocolate Chip Sandwich Stack Cookies


I have always been a fan of chocolate chip cookies, and bake quite a few different recipes. This is my go-to chic chip cookie recipe, and the cookies are chewy and chocolate-y, very more-ish.

However, they often end up a bit flat, which is fine by me – who’s going to tell a cookie that it’s too thin?  But way back in 2016 when I blogged this recipe, I came up with a great way to eat these cookies  – make them into cookie and ice cream sandwiches! Or make a cookie stack with lots of layers!

Ingredients

125g butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 free-range egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g chocolate chips (milk or dark)

50g good quality dark chocolate chopped into little and bigger shards

Method

Note: This is a food processor cookie. It would definitely be great to make it with an electric mixer – and for the purists, you will get really nicely creamed butter and sugar. But the food processor method is super quick – and your cookies are ready in no time.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in the food processor until light and well, creamy! Add the vanilla extract and egg and process well. Add the flour and baking powder. You can sift them first, I never do. Gently pulse until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and the chopped chocolate.

Drop in dessert spoonfuls for large cookies or teaspoonfuls for smaller cookies on to the baking paper. You need to leave a gap of at least the size of 2 cookies between each (about 3 or 4 cms). Bake until the cookies are lovey and golden brown. This is usually between 12 and 15 minutes. I have found that watching the cookies is a better guide to when they are cooked than simply cooking for a certain number of minutes.

Cool for a few minutes on the baking trays, then finish on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

T o make an icecream sandwich, put two cookies together with your favourite icecream! I used choc-peanut-salted caramel swirl. Good old vanilla would be fab. Drizzle with chocolate.

To make a cookie stack, pile up cookies with any filling you like – cream, chocolate, or buttercream icing. I made a passionfruit buttercream for this stack.

Lemon Ricotta Cake with Italian Meringue

 



I love cakes that utilise dairy ingredients such as ricotta, yoghurt or sour cream to make a very moist and slightly fudgy style of cake. This cake has ricotta and Greek yoghurt to give that great texture, plus soaked in lemon syrup for added moistness as well as added zing.

You can top this cake in a lot of ways – drizzle with more lemon syrup, ice with buttercream or as I did, swathe with beautiful cloudy Italian meringue!

Ingredients

4 large free range eggs – approximately 200 – 220g in weight

200g caster sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

175g butter

175g ricotta

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

75g Greek Yoghurt

200g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bi carbonate of soda

Lemon syrup

Juice of remaining lemon left over from zesting

50g sugar

Italian Meringue

225g caster sugar

120 glucose syrup

90ml water

150g free-range egg whites

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 20cm springform tin with butter. Line the base with a circle of baking paper.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon zest in an electric mixer, starting on low and gradually increasing speed to maximum. Whisk till mixture is pale coloured slightly increased in volume.

Melt the butter and cool to room temperature. Break up ricotta roughly with a fork to help in mixing it in.

Add the lemon juice, vanilla paste, ricotta, yoghurt and butter to the bowl and whisk on low speed until just amalgamated. You don’t want to mix too long and knock the air out.

Combine the plain flour, baking powder and bi carbonate of soda, stirring with a fork to mix. If you want to, you can sift these ingredients.

Very carefully fold the flour into the cake mixture in 3 or 4 lots. Again, be careful not to overmix as you will lose volume. The mixture will be slightly lumpy because of the ricotta, but don’t worry, that doesn’t affect the baked cake texture.

Carefully pour into the cake tin. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake come out clean. Check the cake after 30 minutes – you may need to cover the top with foil if it’s browning too quickly.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup by putting the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan  over a low heat and stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for a minute to reduce the syrup slightly.

Once cooked, remove from the oven, and leaving the cake in the tin, pierce all over the top with a skewer.

Pour the lemon syrup over the cake and then leave to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the spring form tin onto a plate.

To make the Italian meringue: first reserve 3 tablespoons of the caster sugar. Put the remaining sugar, glucose syrup and water into a small saucepan and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Have a cooking thermometer ready to test the temperature.  Without further stirring, cook over medium heat until the temperature reaches 117 degrees C on your thermometer.

Put the egg whites into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk  on a low speed. When the egg whites become loosened and slightly foamy, add the reserved 3 tablespoons of sugar, a tablespoon at a time.

Now you need to do this last action during the heating of the sugar syrup, which can be tricky. The idea is to pour the sugar syrup when it has reached 117 degrees C, onto the whisked egg whites and sugar. Pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl, not onto the whisk.

Whisk on medium speed for several minutes until the mixture looks like meringue and is glossy and stands in peaks, and has cooled to room temperature. This will take at least 5 minutes – maybe more.

You can add any flavourings and colours at this point – stir in carefully by hand. I added the juice and seeds of a passionfruit for my cake, as passionfruit goes well with lemon.

To finish the cake, pile the thick luscious Italian meringue onto the top of the cake, using a palette knife.

Serve in thick slices, with more passionfruit, some lemon curd, whipped cream, ice cream, I could go on… this cake is a truly magnificent dessert cake however you like to serve it!

Spiced Red Lentil Dhal

I was reminded of this red lentil dhal dish I made a et while back, when my food photo exchange friend, a pretty decent cook himself, was talking about Indian dishes and his latest cooking exploits.

It’s a tasty veggie recipe that’s perfect for making sure you get your 5-a-day! And the spices make it delicious and flavourful.

This is a Vegan Sparkles recipes with my tweaks – the link to the original recipe is here.

It’s super easy to make, looks colourful and enticing, and is both vegetarian and vegan. And for us Antipodeans coming into summer, it’s a great dish to serve for an alfresco lunch. And if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, it would make a hearty first course in an Indian style banquet.

Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil

½  onion, finely chopped

1 cup sweet potato, chopped into cubes

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tsp mustard seeds (black or yellow)

¾ tsp ground cayenne pepper

1½ tsp ground cumin

1½ tsp ground turmeric

1½ tsp garam masala

½ tsp ground coriander

1 clove garlic, chopped

1½ cups dried red lentils

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups water

1 tsp honey

1 cup grated and pulped carrot

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup baby spinach leaves

½ tsp nigella seeds

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat. Add onion and sweet potato and fry gently until onion is soft. Add ginger, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, garam masala  coriander and garlic to the pan, and cook, while stirring, until mustard seeds begin to pop.

Add the lentils, stock and water and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the honey. Put the carrot pulp, broccoli  and cherry tomatoes into the dahl and simmer for another 15 minutes.

The dahl will be cooked and somewhat reduced. If it’s looks a little too dry, add more water, or if it’s too liquidey, reduce down a bit more.

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the spinach leaves until they are just wilted. Scatter the nigella seeds just before serving over the dish. They will give an interesting black fleck to the dish!

Soul Cakes for All Souls’ Day



It’s 2 November, All Souls’ Day, and today I baked Soul  Cakes, the traditional fare for this special day.

 “The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, are given out to soulers who go from door to door, singing and saying prayers for the souls of the givers and their friends.”

The musician Sting has a version of the traditional song “Soul Cake” on his album “If on a Winter’s Night”. Here are some lyrics.

“A soul cake, a soul cake,

Please, good missus, a soul cake.

An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,

Any good thing to make us all merry,

A soul cake, a soul cake,

Please, good missus, a soul cake.

One for Peter, two for Paul,

And three for Him that made us all.”

These souls cakes are half biscuit, half cake. They are heavily spiced, and coloured yellow with a little saffron. I added the zest of a mandarin, an orange is just as good. I made mine quite thick, to be more cake like, and less like a biscuit. I think this works well.

My soul cakes are a little rustic, ie not very pretty, but taste really spicy and are quite more-ish.

While a traditional treat for this day, you could make them anytime as they are super delicious!

Ingredients

100 g butter, softened

100g caster sugar

2 free-range egg yolks

250g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 -1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon saffron

Zest of an orange or mandarin

2 tbs milk

75g sultanas

Method

Put the softened butter, caster sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until everything is combined and the mixture is creamy. Don’t worry if it looks split – the addition of the flour will fix that!

Sift the flour and spices,including the saffron. Put the mixture with the orange/mandarin zest into the processor, blitzing for a couple of seconds only, then blitz in the milk a little at a time until the dough just comes together. Don’t over-mix! If the dough isn’t yellow enough, add a pinch more of saffron.

Stir in the sultanas by hand.

Form the dough into a rough ball, them roll into a sausage shape, with a rough diameter of about 50cm or 2 inches, or whatever size you want your soul cakes to be.

Wrap in grease proof paper and chill in the fridge for a couple oh hours or until you want to bake.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced or 180 degrees C non fan forced.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Take the sausage from the fridge and cut into thick wedges. Place each wedge on the baking tray. At this stage you should cut a cross on the top of each soul cake. I have to admit I forgot to do this today! But I  have included a photo of a prototype batch with crosses. Incidentally these ones looked nicer but didn’t have the lovely rich spicy taste of the version in this post.


Bake for 15 minutes or until firm and just brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Delicious eaten warm! If not eaten on the day they will harden up a bit. The soul cakes can  be frozen too, but eat on the day if possible – All Souls’ Day!

Blueberry, Almond and Orange Cake



A couple of posts back I revisited my Blueberry Hazelnut Cake. So I really had to make another blueberry cake straight after posting that recipe as blueberries are everywhere and are so inexpensive! I picked up 3 punnets from a fruit stall in the city for $5 – such good value!

This is a riff from the original recipe, this time using ground almonds and orange. Orange slices make a great decoration for the top of the cake too. Like the original cake, I made a quick blueberry jam to spoon over the top. Better then frosting, and it really complements the blueberries inside the cake.

This is an incredibly moist cake, because of the blueberries and the Greek yoghurt. The cooking time is 45 minutes, but you may need to give it a little longer if it’s still not quite baked when you check using the skewer test.

Because it’s so moist I thought about adjusting the liquid quantities, but decided not to, as I think this cake works really well as a rich dessert, and is also a great cake for keeping. And don’t worry if it doesn’t rise that much, there is a lot of fruit in it which makes it harder to rise.

Any orange is fine for the juice and decoration – I used a blood orange as they are in season in Sydney and are so pretty!

Ingredients

125g softened butter

115g  caster sugar

1 teaspoon almond essence

2 free-range eggs

1 heaped tablespoon Greek yoghurt

100g ground almonds

100g plain flour

I teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

60ml milk

1 tablespoon orange juice

200g fresh blueberries

For the quick blueberry jam

100g blueberries

50g caster sugar

Juice of half an orange

Orange slices for decoration, if desired

Method

You can make this cake in a stand mixer, but I prefer to use a food processor. Either will work well.

I made this cake in a square cake pan with a removable base, but of course a round spring form pan is what most people will have, so that will work fine.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease a 20cm square pan with a removable baseif you have it, or a 20cm spring form round pan, and line the base with baking paper.

Cream butter, caster sugar and almond essence extract in a food processor.  Add the free-range eggs and process until eggs are well incorporated. Pulse in the Greek yoghurt.  Sift the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the sifted ingredients into the mixture with a spoon, then stir in the milk and orange juice.

Fold in the fresh blueberries. Spoon into whichever cake pan you are using.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after 35 or 40 minutes, and if it’s browning too quickly, place a piece of baking paper or aluminium foil over the top to prevent burning.

Meanwhile, cook the blueberries for the quick jam and the caster sugar with the orange juice in a small saucepan for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved, the blueberries are slightly softened and the liquid slightly reduced. You can gently press on the blueberries with the back of spoon to help them release their juices.

Cool the cake completely in the pan before removing the sides/ring of the pan. As the cake is quite moist and therefore a bit delicate, carefully remove it from its base using an offset spatula or indeed an ordinary metal spatula.

Pile the blueberry “jam” onto the top of the cake. Serve with more fresh berries and orange slices if desired. I think this particular blueberry cake is fine on its own, as it’s so moist, but you could always dress it up with cream or ice cream if serving as a dessert.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Goat’s Cheese



Home-made pasta is great to eat and pretty easy to make. There are so many different sizes and  shapes to make, and you can create different flavours by adding vegetables and herbs, as I did here by adding pumpkin to the dough.

This is a recipe for pumpkin ravioli with goat’s cheese I made a while back. I made two different fillings, one with goat’s cheese and watercress, the other with goat’s cheese, pumpkin, thyme and hazelnuts. The pasta dough has mashed baked pumpkin to give the pasta a lovely orange colour and subtle taste. 

The basic recipe I use for the pasta dough is a Jamie Oliver recipe. Click here for the original recipe. It’s straightforward and easy to follow. 

Ingredients

Pasta

3 large free range eggs

300g Tipo ’00’ flour

3 tablespoons or so of butternut pumpkin baked in the oven with a little olive oil, then mashed. The amount you use will depend on how “orange ” you want the pasta to be. If you add too much, the pasta will be too soft to roll, so start out adding less – you can always add more.

Filling

3 tablespoons or so of any soft goat’s cheese 

1 tablespoon or so of wilted watercress ( a few good handfuls of watercress will wilt down to 1 tablespoon – instructions below)

1 tablespoon mashed baked pumpkin (squash)

2 teaspoons roast chopped hazlenuts (about 10 or 12)

A few chopped thyme leaves

Method

Put the eggs and flour into a food proccesor and whiz until the flour looks like breadcrumbs, then tip the mixture on to the work surface and bring the dough roughly together. Add the baked pumpkin, starting off with a little at first, then adding more if you need to. Bring the pasta dough together into one lump.

Knead the dough and work it with your hands to develop the gluten in the flour, until the pasta dough starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury.  Wrap the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour before you use it.

Now is the time to prepare your filling, so you are ready to fill the ravioli once the pasta is rolled.

To wilt the watercress, place it washed in a small frying pan or saucepan with the barest amount of water. Cook over a low heat until it wilts. Break up the goat’s cheese with a fork, and mix in salt and pepper to taste.

To half the goat’s cheese add the watercress, and to the other half mix in the mashed pumpkin, thyme leaves and roast chopped hazelnuts.

I should note here that I inadvertently mixed in some wilted watercress into some of my pasta dough –  so I went with it – creating some lovely green speckled pasta dough that you can see in some of the photos.

For the pasta, dust your work surface with some Tipo ‘00’ flour, take a lump of pasta dough the size of a large orange and press it out flat with your fingertips. Set the pasta machine at its widest setting – and roll the lump of pasta dough through it. Lightly dust the pasta with flour if it sticks at all. Click the machine down a setting and roll the pasta dough through again. Fold the pasta in half, click the pasta machine back up to the widest setting and roll the dough through again. Repeat this process five or six times. It might seem like you’re getting nowhere, but in fact you’re working the dough, and once you’ve folded it and fed it through the rollers a few time, it should be smooth and silky.

Now roll the pasta dough working it through all the settings on the machine, from the widest down to around the narrowest. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta with a little flour every time you run it through. When you’ve got down to the narrowest setting, fold the pasta in half lengthways, then in half again, then in half again once more until you’ve got a square-ish piece of dough. Turn it 90 degrees and feed it through the machine at the widest setting. As you roll it down through the settings for the last time, you should end up with a rectangular silky sheet of dough with straight sides. For ravioli, roll the pasta down to the point where you can clearly see your hand or lines of newsprint through it.

Once you have rolled the pasta, you will need to work quite quickly, as the pasta dries out. Place the rolled pasta on a lighly floured board. Cut the pasta sheets into two if they are really long, or use two rolled sheets if they are the right length to make the ravioli. You can cover the unused sheets with a tea towel for a few minutes while you are making ravioli with the other sheets.

Place small spoonfuls of the filling on one pasta sheet, allowing for a border when you come to cut the ravioli. Moisten the exposed pasta and put the other pasta sheet on top. Press down to divide the sheets into individual ravioli and, making sure you don’t trap any air with the filling, seal the ravioli edges.

Cut pasta into shapes using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife. Dust the ravioli with a little flour to help them keep their shape if you’re not cooking immediately, or alternatively pack them carefully into freezer bags and freeze for cooking in the future.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and put the ravioli in. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until al dente. The fresher the ravioli are, the quicker they will cook.

For a quick sauce, heat a little butter in a frying pan until the butter foams and add lots of black pepper. Pour over the ravioli and serve with shaved parmesan.

Blueberry Hazelnut Cake

 



This is one from the archives. A relatively easy cake that packs a real blueberry punch!  Because of all of the blueberries, it is a moist cake that keeps well.

Blueberries seem to be perennially in season here in Sydney and are relatively inexpensive. I have them permanently on hand for my breakfast granola with Greek yoghurt. But they’re yummy baked in a cake too.

This cake maximises the blueberry thing with fresh blueberries, dried blueberries and blueberry jam. The main hit comes from the fresh blueberries, and you could easily leave the dried ones out altogether- they’re not always easy to buy. Or substitute some raisins instead.

The “jam” is actually pretty simple – some blueberries cooked with sugar and water to make a rough preserve.

And a double hazelnut hit from the ground hazelnuts and the toasted hazelnuts.

It can be dressed up or down – great for afternoon tea or for a dessert.

Ingredients

125g softened butter

115g  caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 free-range eggs

1 heaped tbls sour cream

90g ground hazelnuts

1/4 cup toasted and finely chopped  hazelnuts

100g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

60ml milk

30g dried blueberries, soaked in 1 tblsp of water for an hour (or substitute raisins or leave out altogether)

200g fresh blueberries

75g caster sugar

Method

You can make this cake in a stand mixer, but I prefer to use a food processor. Either will work well!

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease a 20cm spring form tin and line base with baking paper.

Cream butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a food processor.  Add the free-range eggs and process until eggs are well incorporated. Pulse in the sour cream.  Sift the ground hazelnuts with the chopped hazelnuts,  SR flour and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the sifted ingredients into the mixture with a spoon, then stir in the milk.

Fold in the soaked dried blueberries or raisins if using, and half of the fresh blueberries. Spoon into the springform cake tin.

Bake for  about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the remaining blueberries and caster sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved, the blueberries are slightly softened and the liquid slightly reduced. You can gently press on the blueberries with the back of spoon to help them release their juices.

Cool the cake completely in the tin before removing the ring of the springform tin. As the cake is quite moist and therefore a bit delicate, carefully remove it from its base using an offset spatula or indeed a ordinary metal spatula.

Pile the blueberry “jam” onto the top of the cake. Serve with more fresh berries and a sprinkling of sugar if desired, with whipped cream, creme fraiche or sour cream, any kind of cream goes well with this sweet blueberry baked delight!

 

IMG_6858

Sourdough Sandwich Bread



Lately I’ve been experimenting with different types of sourdough, from wholemeal loaves to enriched white soft sourdough.

My current favourite is a wholemeal loaf that is great for sandwiches. It can be shaped as a batard in a proving basket and then baked in a pot, or equally baked in a loaf tin to make it easier to slice for the aforementioned sandwiches!

The recipe is based on my go-to sourdough method, with some tweaks for wholemeal. I have given instructions for both the batard in a cast iron pot and the loaf tin versions.

Ingredients

150g strong wholemeal flour

300g strong white flour

150g wholemeal sourdough starter

325g tepid water

2 teaspoons honey

10g salt

Method

Weighing, mixing, autolyse
Weigh both flours into a large bowl. Weigh the sourdough starter and add, followed by the water. Add the honey. Mix everything together very roughly, in order to incorporate the ingredients.

Cover the bowl and leave for 30 minutes to autolyse.  I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too. The autolyse is an important step to activate fermentation. 

After the autolyse add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. I strongly advise using a dough hook in a stand mixer – I have a KitchenAid which I swear by. You can really develop the gluten in the dough, which makes the dough much easier to pre-shape and then shape. *

Kneading and proving 
Using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test. If you pull and stretch a small section, it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. I usually do a couple stretch and folds too – one straight after mixing, and one half way through the prove. 

After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by about 50%.

Pre-shaping
Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and shouldn’t be too delicate, but don’t be too rough! Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Shaping
This is where you can shape for a batard in a proving basket to be baked in a pot or for a loaf tin. It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping as you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.

Fo the batard shape, put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Now roll up the dough like a Swiss roll, it doesn’t matter which side you roll up. Press the seam to seal.

If using a proving basket, carefully move the dough into a batard shaped proving basket, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.

If using a loaf tin, butter a large loaf tin generously. Move the dough and place seam side down, into the tin. 

Second proving
While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Baking
For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C. Put the pot in when you begin to pre-heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes.

Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.

At this point you can score the dough using a lame or razor blade. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough. Put the lid back on the pot. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C or 200 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter baking time, and have come to the conclusion that the longer baking time gives a richer, browner loaf, which is what I prefer.

If baking in a loaf tin, pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees C 30 minutes prior to baking. If you have one, use a baking or pizza stone. Place this in the oven at the time of pre-heating. Once the 30 minutes is up, to add steam to the oven, put a cast iron pan or a baking dish with water in it in the bottom of the oven. Put the loaf tin in the oven onto the heated stone.

Turn the oven to 220 degrees C or 200 degrees C fan-forced and bake for 45-50 minutes. The loaf should be dark brown on top.

For either the batard or the loaf, once cooked, remove from the oven, take out of the pot/tin and leave to cool for an hour.

This bread, as the title of the post suggests, makes great sandwiches! It’s easy to slice into manageable sandwich slices. Great with lots of  kinds of fillings but I’m partial to egg and mayonnaise. I can strongly recommend that combination!

Of course like any good sourdough, lovely with plenty of butter and home made jam!

*If you don’t have an electric mixer, I recommend the stretch and fold method – see previous post on Sourdough, Ultimate Bread here for how to do this. As for traditional kneading, there is plenty of information on the internet to guide you.

Angel Food Cake With Berries and Berry Cream



Three months ago I had never made, or even eaten angel food cake. I’m not sure why I hadn’t come across this amazing cake – it is so delicious, and while not a doddle to make, is pretty easy once you have made it once and practised the techniques.

So the first angel food cake that I made was the first one that I ate! I love its sublime lightness, pillowy softness, and ability to be a fantastic vehicle for cream, fruit and sauces.

Angel food cake is notable because it contains no fat and no egg yolks. In fact, it’s basically egg whites, sugar and flour, with cream of tartar. It also needs to be cooked in a special angel food cake tin.

I did a heap of research online to find out how to bake this cake. There are several things you need to do for cake success:

*Acquire an angel food cake tin for a start, and learn how to use the tin.

The tin should be 25cm/10in in diameter.

*Don’t grease the tin!

*Cool the cake upside down, the tin being supported on its own legs.

*Treat your egg whites in the mixture with care. Whisk the egg whites until aerated and foamy but not dry. After adding the sugar, whisk into soft but not stiff peaks. The egg white mixture will continue to expand in the oven. Stiff peaks may deflate in the oven.

My recipe is developed from very helpful instructions from the Queen of Cakes, Mary Berry, link here and Sally’s Baking Addiction, link here. Both food writers explain the science of the angel food cake clearly with understandable instructions.

Angel food cake is best served with cream and fruit or a sauce. It would be tricky to ice the cake as it’s so delicate, so it’s usually served plain.

I served this particular cake with lots of strawberries and raspberries, and berry whipped cream – whipped cream mixed with some berry jam and then piped onto the cake in swirls.

An angelic dusting of icing sugar makes this a truly heavenly cake to eat!

Ingredients

Cake

125g plain flour

300g caster sugar

10 large free-range egg whites

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon salt

To serve

250mls whipping cream

1-2 tablespoons of any berry jam – strawberry, raspberry or blueberry, or a mixture

250g strawberries

250g raspberries

Icing sugar, to dust

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, 180 degrees C non fan forced.  Make sure you have an oven shelf positioned in the lower third of the oven.

Sift the flour and salt and add to a food processor. Pulse them with 100g of the caster sugar. This will aerate the dry ingredients to help create a light cake texture.

Whisk the 10 egg whites in an electric stand mixer on a high speed for one minute until frothy. Add the lemon juice, cream of tartar and salt and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, or until foamy peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Increase the speed, and add the remaining 200g of caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time to form firm, but not stiff peaks. You will end up with a big volume of meringue mixture.

Sprinkle over one third of the flour/sugar mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. Repeat with the next third of the mixture and then the last third. Be very careful to fold the flour/sugar mixture gently to keep as much air in the angel food mixture as possible.

Carefully spoon the mixture into an angel food cake tin. Do not grease the tin! There is a lot of mixture to get into the tin. Once in the tin, gently run a knife through the centre of the mixture to remove any pockets of air.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The cake should be pale brown and should have risen slightly. If the egg whites have been over beaten, or the mixture stirred too aggressively, the baked cake can sink.

Take out of the oven and turn the tin upside down onto the tin’s cooling legs on the bench top. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for at least an hour, two is ideal.

Once the cake is cool, run a knife around the outer edge of the cake tin, and also the inner edge around the centre insert, to remove it from the tin.

Turn the tin over and invert onto a plate. Remove the centre insert, and very carefully run a palette knife between the cake and the base of the tin to separate the cake from the base.  Being very careful, turn the cake right side up and place on a wire rack to cool.

Once cool, very delicately turn the cake right side up and place on a serving plate.

To serve:

Whip the cream until fairly stiff, but don’t overwhip or you’ll end up with butter! Put into a piping bag, and swirl your berry jam of choice into the cream. Pipe swirls or rosettes, if you’re being fancy, around the diameter of the cake.

Pile lots of strawberries and raspberries into the centre of the angel food cake.

Dust liberally with icing sugar over the whole cake.

 

 

 

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